A guide to conveyor belts

Conveyor belts play a hugely important role in many industrial settings. Read on to find out more about this piece of equipment.

What are conveyor belts used for?

Conveyor belts are part of a conveyor system; it is their job to quickly transport materials around an industrial facility. They are, for example, used to move raw materials into processing lines, where the goods can then be sorted, washed and processed. This equipment can then be used to take the finished products to the packaging line.

Some are controlled using mechanical means, whilst others are operated pneumatically;(i.e. materials are pushed along the enclosed conveyor belt using air pressure).

A conveyor belt can do in seconds what an employee might take an hour to accomplish. As a result, they have contributed greatly to the efficiency levels in many industrial facilities.

What is this equipment made from?

Conveyor belts are usually made from one of three materials, rubber, plastic or stainless steel. Rubber and plastic conveyor belts are typically only used for the transportation of non-consumable materials (such as car components in an automotive manufacturing plant, for example) as these substances can affect the quality and flavour of food, drink and pharmaceuticals.

Stainless steel is by far the most popular material for conveyor belts used to move consumable products. This is largely because it is extremely easy to keep clean. Hygiene is of the utmost importance in all pharmaceutical, food and drink processing facilities, as the presence of bacteria, viruses and fungi on the conveyor belts could contaminate the products and result in the spread of disease when they eventually reach consumers.

Stainless steel is non-porous and chip-resistant, meaning that it won't develop pits or scratches in which bacteria and other contaminants could reside and multiply. Furthermore, stainless steel will not corrode or develop other forms of deterioration when exposed to water and cleaning agents, meaning that employees can sanitise the conveyor belts on a regular basis without running the risk of damaging the equipment.

Are conveyor belts dangerous?

Whilst conveyor belts are not inherently hazardous, there are some risks associated with them. There is a chance, for example, of employees working next to conveyor belts having a piece of their clothing or one of their limbs caught in the belt, in which case they would almost certainly sustain an injury. There is also a risk of heavyweight materials tumbling off a conveyor belt and crushing a nearby employee.

To minimise the chances of these type of incidents occurring, the vast majority of industrial facilities will provide their employees with comprehensive training regarding how to use and maintain conveyor belts. Many facilities also install conveyor guards, which are designed to act as a barrier between the belt and employees; these can eliminate the chance of someone getting their limbs caught in the belt.